Silke Schönfeld, No More Butter Scenes (still rehearsals), 2024
Silke Schönfeld: No More Butter Scenes
Jun 27–30, 2024
Kunsthalle Münster
Münster, Germany

The video installation No More Butter Scenes (2024) examines the relationship between consent and intimacy in the context of the acting profession. In 2007, around 35 years after the premiere of Tango in Paris (1972), actress Maria Schneider spoke for the first time about the sexual abuse she experienced during the shooting of the infamous butter scene. Director Bernardo Bertolucci argued that it was only by not informing his leading actress in advance of how the scene with co-star Marlon Brando would take place that he was able to capture her authentic frustration and anger.

Such a cruel style of directing may seem like a relic from some archaic past. But the #metoo movement along with recent revelations about abusive working conditions on film sets and theatre stages paint a different picture. When it comes to investigating these cases of power misuse, the authenticity of the emotions of those affected is contested time and again. The credibility of actors is questioned not least because it is their profession to portray feelings. Above all, however, the credibility of traumatized people tends to be called into question if they are unable to conjure up the generally expected emotions – due to dissociation, for example.

The film is realized as a chamber play with Lola Fuchs and Mervan Ürkmez in the leading roles and is derived from the format of PR interviews. In this rather distinct media format – an indispensable tool in the promotion of any international blockbuster – the actors follow a script. It plays with the tension-laden space between the fiction we experience on the big screen and the staging of the actors as (supposedly) private individuals. In the film, the authenticity of the interviews is gradually deconstructed, while the protagonists increasingly disregard the rules set out in the invisible script. The verbal exchange of blows between them evolves on the physical level into a mixture of dance and combat. Exercises in intimacy coordination are staged as choreographies.

No More Butter Scenes uses an individual case to demonstrate the psychological complexity underlying the relationship between victim and perpetrator. Can we as the audience act as judge over the credibility of someone’s emotions? While we are being thrown back on our own prejudices, the roles of victim and perpetrator are constantly renegotiated between the actors. What role do the protagonists’ ambitions play? How high is the risk that one’s own ambitions will lead to complicity in the structural abuse of power?

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